Montreal Saturday Night – St. John’s Ambulance Edition

Glow - Saturday Night

Get first aid training.


After a delightful evening up in the Mile End about a week ago I came across an unfortunate scene on the way to Laurier Métro. An elderly woman was riding her bike when a bag slung across the handlebar had become ensnared between the spokes, causing her to take a nasty fall. Head first.

I didn’t see it happen, just that several cars had stopped and a crowd had gathered in its aftermath. The woman was on the ground, twisted up into her bike, trying to get up while people gathered near commanded in both official languages not to get up.

That’s when I knew to step in.

I got my first aid training at St. John’s Ambulance last fall, graciously paid for by my previous employer. The instructors and instruction was top-notch, and it’s conveniently located right next to Jarry Métro in the same building as Justin Trudeau’s constituency office (so there’s a reason to go right there). I took the CSST ‘secouriste’ first aid course, which covers all the basics. Most importantly, it gives you the confidence to involve yourself and execute simple first aid techniques that will, in most cases and above all, provide immediate comfort and stability in an emergency situation. In retrospect I wish I had taken the course earlier, as it has so far proven quite useful. You may remember an incident of police brutality I witnessed at the April 3rd anti-austerity demonstration, in which a retired teacher was smashed with a shield by a marauding line of riot cops.

Then, like last Saturday night, it was instinctual to step in; there’s nothing nearly as serious as head trauma. I kept her head still and ran through the litany of questions – name, address, where do you hurt, who can we call, do you know where you are etc.

Ultimately it seemed to look worse than it actually was. She was wearing a bike helmet, a really geeky-looking one at that, and it may very well have saved her life.

We’ve lost too many sisters in bike accidents recently…

In any event, get first aid training. Ask your employer if they need a secouriste and volunteer to do the training, it’s entirely worth it. It has nothing to do with saving lives; if you’re lucky you’ll never be in a position in which a life depends on your actions. I prefer that responsibility ultimately lie in the hands of paramedics, nurses, doctors and surgeons. First aid is about providing comfort first and foremost.


As an aside to the aforementioned, the emergency response was as follows:




Someone needs to explain to me what the logic is here. This was a bike accident. I understand that the cops are needed to manage traffic and see if it was a hit and run or drunk driving accident, and that the firefighters are the mandated first responder in our city (though the logic behind that one escapes me as well), I just don’t understand why they need to dispatch a firetruck and several firefighters when a smaller vehicle and fewer responders would suffice.

The extant method must be obscenely expensive.

The firefighters and police who responded initially did what they could to help the woman, but they all had to defer to the paramedics who were ultimately responsible for securing her neck and moving her onto the stretcher and into the ambulance.

There must have been at least a dozen people and four emergency vehicles responding to a bike accident.

This seems to be a bit much, and I can’t help but wonder if it might not be worthwhile to develop a dedicated first responder service for the myriad emergencies that simply don’t require big costly vehicles and elite emergency service personnel.

Firefighters fight fires, that’s what they’re trained to do. Thus, they should be available to respond to fires, not bike accidents.

Anyways, just another Saturday night in Montreal.

Don’t be a bystander…

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